The song “America” written by Samuel Francis Smith begins with these words:
“My country ‘tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died
Land of the pilgrims pride
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring
Martin Luther King in his “I have a dream” speech spoke these words:
“From every mountainside, let freedom ring. …When we allow freedom to ring … we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”
Martin Luther King was a visionary, not without foibles, but a visionary appropriate to the times of America in 1963. His life was galvanizing to many, divisive to those who held on to their prejudices. Laws of equality emerged anew from his inspirational message.
John F. Kennedy was a visionary with statements such as this: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”. Space exploration and the Peace Corps were fruits of such a call to action. Over time many young people have responded to serve our country in the military.
Woodrow Wilson challenged Americans to a broader world perspective with these words: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement”.
Who are the visionaries and inviters among us? Who are the dividers, the close minded, among us? Who are the people than can rise up beyond selfish and partisan perspectives that can be visionary leaders of the common denominator of shared human kind? Who can see beyond the religious divisions of Christian, Muslim, and Jew; or the cultural and racial divides of blacks, whites and reds; or the political chasm between liberals and conservatives? Who can present and debate ideas without ridiculing, demonizing, and mocking those with different viewpoints. Who can rise above the petty and mundane, the short term gain, to inspire today’s “dream” – to let “freedom ring” and be heard by those who want to create a better world.
May this Fourth of July be a reminder of the gift of freedom that we have and the challenges still before us as we continue to dream of a better world. The song IMAGINE contains these words:
“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.
I hope you join us
And the world will be as one”
— Dr. Stathas is a Counseling Psychologist, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, in the Lake Oconee area.